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More commonly associated with nightmares rather than dreams; a team at University College London has revealed new research which suggests that rats do in fact dream when they sleep.

Veterinary Medicine applicants will be interested to note that when electrodes are attached to rats’ brains, they show that different places which the rats visit are recorded and remembered by different combinations of their hippocampal neurons firing together.  The research team showed the rats a path to a treat in a maze and then encouraged the rats to go for a nap.  The team recorded their hippocampus activity while they slept and noted that after the rats woke up, they set along a path to the treat which fired the same hippocampal activity as the pattern of activity when they were asleep. 

Experimental Psychology students should question what this research tells us about rats dreams being shaped by their desire and PBS students will want to investigate what this experiment could teach us about how mental maps are constructed in general.

Medicine applicants should pay attention to the similarities between how the hippocampi of rats and humans work and Philosophy students might consider the idea that if we can understand areas of the brain that are fired when dreaming, could we stimulate and manipulate those areas on sleeping humans and what are the ethical implications for doing so.

With this new research on rats dreaming coming hot on the heels of reports of Google’s Artificial Intelligence being able to dream (Computer Science students take note), it is becoming increasingly apparent that the world is full of far more dreamers than previously imagined.

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